French Horn/Dealing with resistance


Hi, I have a second-hand late 1970's Holton double french horn that I play in a community band, and I didn't have any problems with it during these last few days of practice...but yesterday and today the horn was extremely resistant, particularly to the middle and upper registers, and some of the lower notes take more effort to speak. I blew all the spit out from the spit-valve, I tried blowing air and at the same time moving the levers in both keys to clear the water from the tubing (as you would with the trumpet/trombone),I took out the main tubes where water collects and emptied those, I ran the snake through the bell and the leadpipe, and still the french horn is extremely resistant. Should I just remove all the tubing, and place the entire unit in the bathtub in tepid water and let it sit for a few minutes? What else should I try?

Hi, if it's suddenly feeling very different it's unlikely to be cured by a bath...  does it maybe have a leak somewhere? The spitvalve could be leaking, try taking out the main tuning slide and putting your thumb over the tube, then blowing in the leadpipe - you'll soon hear if there's a leak around there. Sometimes the little round gutter which the spitvalve closes onto can come unsoldered.

Then I'd check the alignment of the valves, maybe a cork has come out and a valve is blocking the airway. Look under the valve caps and check the little lines line up.

Otherwise there must be something stuck in there somewhere. Have you looked in the mouthpiece?I'd try blowing very hard through the horn with various slides out, you'll be able to tell whether the tube is blocked and maybe where.

The bell section is still the main suspect, I've known a mouthpiece to be stuck in there and it still was possible to put the snake through. If you hold with the bell facing down and slap the bottom of the horn repeatedly (quite hard) it will dislodge anything heavy that's in there.

Let me know if you find the answer...


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Alan Jones


Can answer just about anything on playing the horn, repertoire, buying instruments, repairs, care and maintenance


25 years of professional playing and teaching in the UK


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